‘Trickle-up innovation’: A solar charger for the poor helps the rich, and vice versa

‘Trickle-up innovation’: A solar charger for the poor helps the rich, and vice versa

The ReadySet charging kit includes a velo bicycle generator as well as a solar panel. Photo: Fenix.
The ReadySet charging kit includes a velo bicycle generator as well as a solar panel. Photo: Fenix.

A pair of entrepreneurs who set out to design a solar charger for electricity-starved Ugandans has unexpectedly created a product popular with American consumers.

And the results of this ‘trickle-up innovation,’ they hope, will spur income growth for more of those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Mike Lin and Brian Warshawski developed the ReadySet charging kit give Ugandans off the grid an easy way to charge mobile phones, according to GOOD Business. In a region where cell phones are spreading faster than plug-in power and more and more people are dependent on their phones for cash transfers, Lin and Warshawski co-founded a startup that aimed to facilitate "phone charging, which generates income from the moment it’s plugged in."

But it turns out families in the U.S like the ReadySet kit, too. It’s a handy camping tool, and many Americans want to buy and support solar power even if they can’t afford an entire solar panel array.

The focus of their firm, Fenix, remains on providing a useful product for Africans, Lin said. He hopes its popularity in the U.S will aid that goal. "Succeeding in the U.S. will help us hire more engineers and sales teams, accelerate R&D, and grow to scale in Africa," Lin said.

If he’s correct, demand higher in the pyramid will help produce income for those at the bottom.

Read more about Fenix and the ReadySet charging kit here—or if you're in the U.S., order one for $249 on Kickstarter right now.

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